NBA Draft, free agency flipped? Intriguing idea may not be feasible

Brooklyn Nets NBA Draft. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets NBA Draft. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The NBA Draft would be held after free agency if a proposal made by the Houston Rockets earlier this year, and reportedly gaining momentum, is enacted.

According to a report from Zach Lowe of, a proposal that would flip-flop the timing of the NBA Draft and free agency is gaining some momentum.

The Houston Rockets proposed the idea during a league meeting in April, according to Lowe, who reported that a few prominent general managers are in support of the idea.

Gersson Rosas, executive vice president of basketball operations for the Rockets, presented the idea at a pre-lottery meeting in Chicago.

"As a staff, we have been kicking this around for a couple of summers now. Is there a better way?"

Supporters of the plan say they would be able to use their cap space more wisely and efficiently if free agency were held prior to the NBA Draft. They also point to the likelihood of increased trade activity at the draft.

The 2018 NBA Draft was marked by only a handful of trades and no current players moved as a result of those deals, the first time that was the case in 15 years.

Rosas says one factor that limits trade activity during the draft is teams preserving cap space as they prepare to make pitches to the same few premier free agents.

Only one team will end up signing the guy and the others are left with potential roster holes after striking out or having a star player walk.

Another scenario that has played out recently was a team trading down to open up a few dollars more cap space to pursue a free agent that ultimately signed elsewhere.

Such was the case for the Dallas Mavericks in 2013, who missed a chance to pick Giannis Antetokounmpo after trading down to free up space for their ultimately futile run at Dwight Howard.

One potential issue with this is that the draft would be pushed back into mid- to late July. This would, in turn, push the Summer League schedule back, likely into August.

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The benefit would be that the NBA would have something interesting to attract fan interest in August, a month that can often be fairly bereft of NBA story lines.

The downside would be that the draft talk that fuels the fan fire between the end of the NBA Finals and the actual NBA Draft itself would be lost in favor of more free agency buzz, because hey, there’s hardly any of that now, right?

It is easy to see the potential advantage of moving the NBA Draft back as a vehicle for facilitating trades. The cap space necessary to make trades is often filled during the draft by players on expiring contracts, who cannot be traded.

Teams with cap space coming up at the beginning of the new league year once those expiring deals become actual free agents are not able to make the sort of trades where they take on a bad contract or two while acquiring draft-pick assets.

And it opens up scenarios such as this purely hypothetical one pulled from the various twists and cul de sacs inside my own head:

"The Cleveland Cavaliers, rocked by the loss of superstar LeBron James in free agency, swung a major deal with the Atlanta Hawks just before the 2018 NBA Draft was set to begin, sending the No. 8 overall pick along with top-five protected picks in 2019 and 2021 to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for the No. 1 overall pick.With that pick, the Cavaliers are expected to select Serbian sensation Luka Doncic, who might help fill the gigantic void at small forward left by James’ departure."

Again, let me stress — that is purely hypothetical, just as a means of providing a possible example of how pre-draft free agency could impact the NBA Draft process that would follow the free-agent silly season under Houston’s proposal.

It’s hard to see a scenario in which this happens, simply because the number of moving parts could be complicated and, thus, prohibitive.

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But it does make for an interesting discussion point and mental exercise.